Square Enix has announced that it's withdrawing its investment in Hitman developer IO Interactive, which it originally assumed ownership of back in 2009 when it bought Eidos Interactive. While this move might not mark the end of the popular Hitman video game series – Square Enix is reportedly negotiating with potential new investors to pick up the studio – it definitely means we're unlikely to see a follow-up to last year's critically well-received episodic Hitman any time soon.
It's unclear at this point what this decision means for the future of the Danish studio and its staff, who were also responsible for the Kane & Lynch games, 2009's under-rated Mini Ninjas and the influential PS2 third-person shooter Freedom Fighters. There's also no explanation yet for what will happen to the Hitman brand when the companies split. IO Interactive retaining control of the popular assassin game would certainly make them a more attractive prospect to a potential acquirer.
Here's the statement from Square Enix on the subject:
"To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios. As a result, [Square Enix] has regrettably decided to withdraw from the business of IO Interactive A/S, a wholly‐owned subsidiary and a Danish corporation, as of March 31, 2017.
This decision has resulted in booking of the extraordinary loss amounting to 4,898 million yen, including disposition of the content production account related to the business and impairment loss of intangible assets, in the financial results for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.
As a result of this [Square Enix] started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment. Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interests of our shareholders, the studio and the industry as a whole."
This news comes on the same day that Square Enix announced record sales and profits, and comes on the heels of news this week that two other major games series' are likely to be put on hiatus. Square Enix has reportedly reassigned Deus Ex developers at Eidos Montreal to an upcoming Marvel game, and earlier this week EA noted that Bioware is pausing the Mass Effect series following the poor reception of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Members of that team are being reassigned to work on Star Wars Battlefront 2.